Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dreaming Big

Joseph is seventeen years old when we meet him in Genesis 37. The age when we just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, right? Joseph may have worn a coat of many colors, but he was hated for who he was. He was his father's favorite son. His mother was his father's favored wife. Rachel was a beauty and loved by Jacob. When she gave him a son in his old age he was proud as a peacock. 

See, Joseph's coat wasn't just a gift because his father loved him best. It was given to him because he was now his father's heir. All the brothers had coats. Their coats were made with the purpose of them staying warm as they worked the fields. Joseph's coat was to show his place in the family. 

Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt? Just maybe he wanted to be little brother who was loved and accepted. Sure, I have always heard pastors preach on Joseph's life during this time as if he were prideful and arrogant. But just what if it was the opposite? He has ten older brothers who hate him. Reuben the oldest brother should be the heir, but that title passes him and the other brothers and goes to Joseph. As if life wasn't hard enough, Joseph's parents didn't make it any easier with their differences they made in their sons. But this goes back further. 

What parents do in moderation children will do in excess. Jacob favored Rachel over Leah. There was always a competition of these sisters vying for the love and attention of Jacob. But even before them Jacob and Esau battled for their parents attention. Jacob was the favored son of his mother, Rebekah.  Esau the favored son of his father, Issac. For generations there would be favoritism. From this bitterness would take root and grow.

So Joseph as a few dreams. Yes, there are two ways of looking at this. He could be sharing these dreams out of pride and arrogance or he could be sharing like a little brother would in wanting to fit in and maybe have a bit of acceptance and praise from his other brothers. It's obvious his brothers do not like his dreams and his father isn't too happy either. His father calls him to quietness. His father's favored, but here Joseph could have only felt worse. His sharing got him no where fast. It angered his brothers even more. 

As if that wasn't enough his father puts him in a pickle of a spot. He tells Joseph to go check on his brothers. Really? Does Jacob think for a minute that this is going to turn out well for Joseph? His brothers already despise him. I can see Joseph asking his father to please not send him to the fields. Of course it doesn't tell us this in scripture. It's just me relating to how Joseph could have felt at the time being little brother and all. 

Joseph takes off and his brothers see him coming. They are plotting his demise before he even reaches them. That bitter root is making life for Joseph unbearable. But as his father's heir just maybe Jacob was giving Joseph the task of taking responsibility for who he is and for whom he belongs. 

Joseph couldn't have possibly seen what his brothers were planning. But God did. He was already present there. Waiting and protecting Joseph every step of the way. Through all of these trials Joseph would face his faith only grew. In the bottom of that pit was a God Joseph believed in and trusted. God would make a way.

Joseph knows he is hated. So, I'm sure there was mistreatment from his brothers. He must have felt so alone in this huge family. Maybe he even wished his father had given such a coat to Benjamin instead. For Pete's sake, just give it to Reuben. As a young teen this had to be such a trying time for him. Later he would see how God had been working in his life. He would recognize God as the Architect of his life and see that all along God was moving him toward the masterpiece He created him to be. In the meantime life didn't make much sense.

I see Joseph as so much more than the snotty nosed, prideful, baby brother. He knew he was hated. Maybe he tried all he knew to impress his brothers. Can't you see them sitting around the table talking about their day's activities? Just as brothers do giving one another a punch in the arm. But then Joseph shares and all is quiet. Did he really just say we would worship him? Oh, the anger that was brewing just exploded into a fury bomb. 

Sometimes no matter how hard we try we just are not going to be liked by everyone. We are not going to find love and acceptance from everyone around us. But isn't that how we are? We try so hard to fit in and to find acceptance. We become people pleasers. The only thing is, we can't please everyone and we cannot produce love from others no matter how much we try. This was a life lesson Joseph was learning that would later aid in his leadership and staying true to himself. 

I can see the brother's saying, "Here comes Daddy's little spy". Joseph's coat would be removed and covered in blood. The pit would hold Joseph. He would be stripped of all his brother's hated and thrown into a blackness so his brothers could finally forget him and be done. But there is Reuben, the oldest. The one to whom the heir should belong, but Joseph took that spot when Rachel gave birth to him. Big brother just can't imagine killing little brother, so the pit idea forms. He plans to go back later and rescue him, but that rescue wouldn't come in time. He would be sold for less profit than what a slave would bring. 

These brothers would dance their way back to the farm and deliver the news to their father. They would share his favored son was dead and gone. Oh, the pain Jacob must have endured. I can envision this time for this family. Jacob broken and the brothers living this lie. But all would not be well for Reuben's soul. He is broken over his actions and now must live with the choices he has made. That bitterness would now turn to guilt and shame. But that's how Satan works, right? 

Reuben is distressed but never enough to go to his father and speak the truth. I think there are more brothers here we can relate to besides Joseph, right? Nothing good becomes of secrets kept. Lies lived only turns to more lies until the pit becomes real for us as the truth prevails and comes to light before us. 

Did Jacob wish he had never sent his young son out to those fields? Joseph's character is even seen as he went into the fields. His brothers were not where they were suppose to be. He could have easily went back home and told his father they weren't to be found. But he traveled many miles more until he did find them. I think he truly loved his brothers. Maybe when he first didn't find them he was a bit worried and unsettled? Don't you love how the Word gives us room to dream along with Joseph? 

Of course Joseph was dreaming of greatness. He was a young teen with a big heart and big dreams. The hated one, the misfit, the black sheep to his brothers. Sure, he had his father's love, but he was seeking more. often do we do the same? When will our Father's love be enough? My heart aches for Joseph. Maybe because I can relate to him. 

Maybe he just dreamed of normal. Don't we all just want a normal family? Can we all just get along and love one another? Yep, I knew you too could relate. 

Joseph would be pulled from that pit. Sold to Potiphar and travel to Egypt in chains. Joseph may not have known the road before him, but his God did and He never for once left Joseph alone. He never allowed Joseph to face anything that he couldn't do through his God. Joseph was more than his father's heir. He was an heir to thrown of King of kings. God would later bring Joseph's family together. He would be reunited with his dad and little brother. He too would gain the respect and love he so desired from his brothers. Not because of what he could do or he was, but because he remained true to who God created him to be. 

Young Joseph was filled with dreams. Dreams that God gave him. He would live with a mighty faith as an example to us all. He knew the God who rescued him from that deep cistern would forever go before him to prepare the way for those dreams to be lived out in a life that would bring glory and honor to God and would pave out the perfected arrival of our Savior.

"Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Galatians 4:1-7

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Wow! One of the best novels I have read in quite a long time. Where have I been that I have not read more work by this exceptionally gifted writer? Mike Nappa nailed this novel in so many ways. 

It was the cover of this book intrigued me and of course I love reading works penned by authors who are new to me, so when I seen this for review I had to see what it was all about.

It is categorized as Fiction/Suspense, but this novel holds so much more than just suspense. The characters are so well written. Their lives penned in black and white on these pages, but through Nappa's use of words and expression their lives are before us in living color. 

This is one of those novels that would make a great television series! But for those of us book nerds, paperback is even better. Nappa had me in the first pages. I hated to have to put this book down and carry on with my daily activities. I couldn't wait for some extra reading time to get back into this story. 

I'm so thankful Nappa grew up with the works of Poe. What a great impact on his life and his writing experience. Even more so, what a great gift to share with us! This is a fast paced novel. Twists and turns come at such unexpected times. This is what I truly loved about this novel. Nappa keeps the reader engaged with characters that you want to know more about. Not all the secrets are laid out in the first chapter so you know exactly where the book is going. He has perfectly and precisely placed such amazing detail throughout these pages that you feel as if you are have a front row seat for the mystery unfolding before you! 

If you are looking for a great afternoon summer read this is it! I cannot imagine anyone not loving this novel. Each character has their own story, their own mystery to uncover. This is just such a well written novel. So much more than just suspense! I am now definitely a fan of Mike Nappa and cannot wait to see what's next for Coffey and Hill. 

This novel was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you.

Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at, as well as a bestselling and award winning author with more than one million books sold worldwide. When he was a kid, the stories of Edgar Allen Poe scared him silly. Today he owns everything Poe ever wrote. A former fiction acquisitions editor, Mike earned his MA in English literature and now writes full time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Miss You, Dad

I had never prayed before. On a late night in the month of April I laid at the foot of my father's hospital bed, listening to his shallow breathing. Every few minutes a loud buzzer would go off and a nurse would rush in as if she could save my dad. That night I laid in the floor and begged God, a God I had yet to know, to either heal my dad or take him from this earth. 

I can still go back to that prayer. Tears flowing. My heart pounding. I counted my dad's breaths and wondered if there would be another. I begged God, "Please, God. Can You hear me? Please hear me. Heal my daddy tonight. Take this cancer from him. Allow him to breathe again. If You cannot do that for me then please take him. Please, God, don't make him suffer another night." My dad would spend three weeks in that hospital bed. 

I was nineteen. A young woman, but still so much just a girl. A girl who refused to believe her daddy was dying. No way! My dad would be here forever. God wouldn't take him from me. This girl with such a love would hate God for years to come. A God she didn't know, didn't want to know. 

A year earlier my dad was told he had terminal lung cancer and would never live past a year. That doctor got it right to the exact day. Now, knowing God, I know that with Him all things are possible. Then I believed Him to be a God who could do nothing. Oh, what a God of grace we have. My heart was so bitter and filled with such painful anger. God has healed my heart. He too healed my dad. Just not in the way I had hoped or had known possible. He would heal him on the other side of heaven.

My mother would remain at my dad's bedside for the next three weeks. Never leaving him for a minute. I would go to work each day, go home, clean house, and prepare things for my mom. I would visit my dad each day, but often called throughout the day to check on him. 

When my parents were told my dad was terminal they didn't share that information with me. I truly believed my dad would be coming home. Even those last three weeks at the hospital he would have days that weren't so bad. He celebrated Easter Sunday in the hospital. That would be the last day I would see my dad. 

I sat next to my dad, curled up in his bed, as he said to me, "Rob, I'm not gonna be able to leave here. You're going to have to take care of your mom. Always take care of her." As I type this tears flow so easily. I have worked to hard to keep that promise. I looked at my dad and said, "Dad, stop talking like that. Of course you will be coming home and you can take care of her yourself." But I still promised him and that would be a promise I would be determined to keep for the rest of my life. 

The next day the hospital was sending a hospital bed to our home for my dad. They knew they would be sending him home with hospice to die, but for me, I didn't know. I was thinking if they are sending him home he must be getting better. Still the little girl wanting her daddy, but so much the young woman wanting to protect her father. 

I was home on a sunny April morning. I didn't have to go into work until the afternoon. I called the hospital to check on my dad and mom said, "He's doing great. Having a great day." I was to wait for the bed to be delivered. I thought I'd catch some sun while waiting and then travel to the hospital to see my dad before I went into work. 

There I was with my iced tea as I see my brother-in-law and little nephews pull in the drive. I thought he came out to help with the bed. After all, my dad was coming home. He looked at me with tears and said, "Rob, we need to go to the hospital. Your dad has died." I was floored. I made him repeat it. I still didn't believe him. That was the longest ride I had ever taken. 

For years I carried such guilt. I should have been there. Here I was laying in the sun! He had told my mom to go get herself something to eat. That was the first time in three weeks that she had left his room. Did he know? All I could think about was him being all alone. Later I would realize he wasn't alone at all.

I wouldn't know until later and wouldn't understand until many years later, but two days before my dad died a pastor came in and visited with him. My dad accepted Jesus as his Savior. What a Jesus we have. Oh, to know that my dad would receive the love and forgiveness of a Savior I would later come to know. 

See, my dad could have easily died in a car crash on his way to work, never accepting Jesus. Never knowing that eternal hope. Was it God's plan for my dad to have cancer? I can't say that it was, but I can know for certain that God didn't allow one minute to go unused. He was planning. He loved my dad and was working to see my dad come to know Him as his Savior. Years later I would look back and see how God moved in my life to bring my heart to know him as well. 

All is possible with God. Thirty years has passed since that day. Thirty years without my dad. All those special times you wanna call and share with your dad were never to be.  I missed him as I walked down the aisle. I missed him being there when his grandchildren were born and now his great-grandchildren. To read my first piece of writing. So many moments, big and small,  we didn't get to share. But there were so many treasured memories.

I miss my dad's laughter. At night I would be in my room and hear my dad laughing as he watched Benny Hill, The Three Stooges, and Johnny Carson. His favorites. Oh, how he loved watching All In The Family. To hear his laughter one more time. 

We loved to fish together. He taught me how to play baseball. He taught me to love the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of course we were the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, but no one played like the Steelers! He taught me how to drive, but not before teaching  me to ride a bike. Each time I fell he would pick me back up and say, "Try it again, Rob". He was my greatest cheerleader. 

He made the greatest cheeseburgers and fries! Every day at four he would walk through the door from work. My mother would be preparing dinner. He always came through the door singing to my mom. "Hey, good-lookin'. Whatcha got cookin'? How about cookin' somethin' up with me?" Oh, the country music I endured in the backseat as a youngster I would one day learn to love as it brought me back in time. 

He taught me to believe that nothing was impossible. That I was capable and talented to do anything and be anything I wanted to be. We loved to laugh and Christmas was our favorite day of the year. Only we never waited for Christmas morning to open our gifts. We always had them open the night before, leaving my mom none to happy with us. He was everything a little girl needed. As an adult woman I look back so proud of him. 

I know he would so love my husband. His three grandchildren and three great-grands, soon to be four. I can only hope he would be so proud of me. I pray I have honored my dad in all he taught me. He taught me to stand up for what is right. To be brave no matter what may come. He taught me to be true to myself and never compromise who I am. Most of all he taught me to be humble and to walk with honor. To work hard and to never take a moment of life for granted. 

Oh, how I wish we could fish once more. That last year of his life he would catch and release. He loved catching the big fish. That year must have taught him so much. Something changed about his love of fishing. It became a different love for him. He purchased an old bike that he would ride a bike through the country for miles. If we could only have a few minutes for him to share with me all he learned on his journey. As a teen I wasn't so interested. So much time I allowed to pass. The years I would want to know more about my dad would just not be. I just always figured time would be forever. As a teen you never think about things happening to your parents. 

I look like my dad, but my son is perfect image. I look at my son at times and just fill with such joy. He would have been my dad's fishing buddy for sure. My girls would have been spoiled rotten and protected by his strong and mighty love. 

The years pass. I'm now older than my daddy was when he left this earth. That just doesn't seem right. But nothing is much right about this world we live in today. That God I once hated? Well, that God has moved in powerful ways in my life. I can look back and see His presence throughout my life. He has moved heaven and earth on my behalf. His grace and mercy brought me to know Him and I have loved Him for a little over twenty-five years now. I accepted Jesus as my Savior with my husband at my side as I cradled my son in my arms.

I can look back through tear stained eyes, but I too can look forward with a heart of joy as we will one day meet again. I'm sure, without a doubt, that we will have time to catch up. For me to hear all those stories I missed out on then. Now, there are even more stories to share. What a glorious day that will be for daddy and daughter to meet once again. Who knows, we may even get to throw the ball around again. 

Daddy, I'm all grown up now. I have accomplished so very much. Much of who I am today is because of you and all you instilled in me. You gave me such strength. You always gave me room to make mistakes and was always quick to forgive. So many years ago you wanted a boy. God had me in store for you instead. I know how proud you were to hold me that first time. I now have your wallet that carried my picture for so many years. Love forever remains and the love you gave to me was mighty. I thank you, Dad. I thank you for everything. We'll catch up soon and boy, is there a lot to share. 

I miss you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Appetite of Regret

I have opened chapter twenty-five in Genesis and I find something so interesting that I never realized before. We always hear stories of how Jacob took advantage of his twin brother, Esau, but there's so much more to grasp. Such a powerful lesson to learn here that goes far beyond Jacob's actions and more so to Esau's actions. 

Let me back up. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons. We learn that Jacob was a favorite to Rebeka and Esau was Isaac's favorite. {Genesis 25:27-28} Can we really have favorite children? I can't say that I have a favorite child. Maybe we can relate to each of our children in different ways. Our children take on characteristics of each parent. We find as our children grow that they each take on different loves of each parent. There's always something that makes each child stand out, but to have a favorite? For me that answer has to be, no.

Maybe this is where the  beginnings of their brotherly angst toward one another started. We learn that in Rebekah could feel them struggling within her womb. So much so she calls upon the Lord. As expectant mothers I am sure each of us can relate to her wondering if all is okay. 

Time passes. They grow. They become their own person with their own loves and dislikes. The day comes when we learn that Jacob cooks a stew. {Genesis 25:29} Now, we know from early scripture that Esau was a man of the field. He loved hunting game. We see that Esau even cooked for his father and Isaac loved what his son prepared for him. {Genesis 25:27-28}.

So here comes Esau weary and hungry. He smells his brothers stew. He asks Jacob to please feed him. I am guessing at this moment Jacob's mind is churning. He's about to manipulate his brother when he's hungry, when his appetite  is burning for something to fill his emptiness. This is exactly how Satan works with us. 

Jacob says, "Hey gimme your birthright and I'll feed you whatever you want, bro". I'm sure Jacob had been thinking of this day for a long time. But just as he asks, Esau is quick to answer. He doesn't say, "What? Are you nuts, bro? Why would I give up my birthright to you?" He is quick to turn over every single blessing without thought. "You got it. It's all yours. Now, I'm starving. Gimme some of that great smelling stew". {Genesis 25:29-34}

Now, before we get all judgy at Esau let us think about how easily this can happen to us as well. Because if not for the grace of God there go I. Esau tells Jacob, "Look I'm about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" {Genesis 25:32} About to die? He's so hungry he's willing to give up his birthright and just what is his birthright? It's much more than material things. It is much more spiritual. These are gifts from his father, Isaac, who is still alive. 

He gave up so very much. His recognition as the oldest son, a double portion of inheritance when his father passed, and regard as the leader of the family. That's huge!! His father didn't pass on these gifts lightly. This was not only a gift from his father, but from God. This was a legacy to treasure. A legacy for Esau to pass down to his first son and so on as the generations came to pass. 

Jacob is thrilled at Esau's choice to just give up everything. How long had Esau's belly been full did he regret his actions? Was there a moment after his filling had settled and he thought to himself, "What did I do? Why did I do that?" Oh, how often do we make choices in the blink of an eye to only regret them after all settles?  Choices that at the moment we think nothing about, but later realize all that we gave up and for what? At some point we are going to have to ask ourselves, "What is it that I love? Do I love my God or do I love my world?" This world can be exceptionally enticing with all it has to offer our bellies, but is it worth it to give up all we are to accept the world's offerings? This world has nothing eternal to offer those of us living in Christ Jesus. 

We allow our wants to consume us. It nothing sacred for us? We exchange God's gifts for the gratification of our own desires, and then we later regret our choices that have left us once again empty. Now we are left longing for more. Searching for something more to fill us. But nothing can ever replace what we have so easily given up.

As my husband and I go antiquing we see such beautiful old items. Things that I look upon and wonder how one could give them up. I know there are many reasons why families give up belongings of their elderly parents or grandparents, but there was a time when these things meant so much to those who gave them as gifts. I know I am speaking of material items, but here Esau had so much more than material 'stuff'. But too often we give up much of ourselves. We give up our character, respect, and honor. We give up our heart and heritage in Christ as this world continues to call out to us. 

We can be so controlled by our appetites, always searching for that next thing to fill us that we don't even look back to what we gave up until we come to the realization that nothing can ever fill that God-spot. 

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26

"Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." Hebrews 12:15-17 

Let us not exchange the gifts of the Lord for what this world offers. May we never compromise our faith and our walk with the Lord for anything this world has to offer. Let us be true to who we are in Christ. Always remembering who we are and whom we belong to. 

Temptation will forever surround us, but let us be strong and resist. Never allowing our temptation to turn to sin. For all it takes is one poor misguided choice to forever alter our lives to a point we can never go back. 

If we keep our thoughts upon our Lord, filling our minds and hearts with all He has for us we will never turn to this world to fulfill a longing within us. If we do become tempted the Spirit will be quick to speak to us, giving us wisdom to turn back to our God and walk away from the world. This is why it is so important for us to live lives determined to be in the Word. To search the Word. To dig deep and uncover scripture that will guide us to living a life of intention in Christ Jesus. 

We have a choice each and every day to walk with Jesus or turn from Him and follow our own desires. May we find wisdom and truth in His Word that will lead us to living lives of fullness in Christ and without searching this world to fill us with lives of regret. 

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will received the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12

"But each one is tempted and drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then we desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect blessing is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."  James 1:14-18

Friday, April 15, 2016

Our Forever North Keeps Us True

A writer is always pondering where the pen will go next. Hubs and I drove past this and had to go back to get a shot. I found this so profound.

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5

Immediately I thought of each step we take and how we need to be so focused with Jesus that we measure each step by His Word. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

A reminder that He is our Forever North and our Compass to lead the way. By His promises we know He  will never lead us astray, but always point us in the right direction for our good and for His glory. He will forever keep us true.

"Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3

"To discern God's will, a person must first be determined to do it. More frequently, Christians try to determine it before doing it. Prayers like this- for wisdom, grace, and clarity regarding the Lord's will-are ones the Lord honors. God has a wonderful way of affirming His plans after His servants step out in faith." David Jeremiah

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Are Not Alone In Our Trials

Abraham and Sarah were great-grandparent age when they had Isaac. A hope and a promise made to them in God's perfected timing. Don't you just love when His will is uncovered for us? When we finally get to see His promises come to fruition is as much a relief as a joy. But we don't always want to wait with patience. Too often, just like Sarah, we want to take things in our own hands and manipulate circumstances to get what we want when we want it. 

God had already promised Sarah and Abraham a son, but Sarah didn't want to wait. It had already been so very long. Her hope was diminishing. If we could only wait on God. It's about that time when all hope seems lost that God once again reveals Himself to us in miraculous ways. 

As soon as Isaac is born Sarah no longer wants Hagar there. She wants Hagar and Ishmael to leave. She seems heartless and uncaring. She just wants them gone. She now has what she wanted all along. At first she thought she could manipulate life and use Hagar to bring her a son, but then it happens and Sarah isn't as happy as she thought. She's jealous and envies the relationship Hagar has with Ishmael. She knows how much Abraham loves his son, but she still tells Abraham to make them go. 

Can you imagine the heartache of Abraham? But an angel of the Lord comes to Abraham and tells him to listen to Sarah and do as she asks. What? So many questions of why scream in my heart. I want to stand up for Hagar. I want God to put Sarah in her place. Oh, but what my eyes have not seen, God opens them to more today. He allowed Hagar to go. It's in the desert that she finds that He is her everything. He is going to provide for her and Ishmael in ways that no other person could provide. Where Sarah made her feel unwanted and unloved, God fills her heart. It is with Him she finds a love in the middle of the desert that she didn't find in the riches of Sarah's home. {Genesis 21:1-21}

A journey of trial for Hagar and for Abraham. Abraham's trials are not finished. Friends, it's often found that the closer we are to God the more trials our lives will contain. It is through those trials we find the presence of God. We call upon Him and He answers. Those trials bring us closer to God and closer to becoming the people He has created us to be. God will only ask us to do what He will enable us to do. 

Abraham will now be asked to give up and sacrifice his only son. This brings us to the crucifixion of our Savior. So many parallels here for us to see. {Genesis 22:1-19 and Galatians 4} I cannot imagine the burden upon Abraham's heart. The tears and prayers that must have poured out from him. How could he sacrifice his own son? Abraham had seen God provide. He has witnessed God move in his life and I truly believe that Abraham was not only walking in faith, but in hope, in belief in knowing that He would provide once again. It was through obedience that Abraham's faith has grown. It's through obedience that he has witnessed God moving on his behalf. He would not only show Himself, but He would provide a ram in the thicket, just as He provided for us so long ago when He gave His only begotten Son, with thorns upon his head. Praise Jesus!! 

What would our lives be like without trial? Oh, I'm just like you. I would rather trial never touch my life, but without it would we truly see God move? Would we appreciate the good in life? Satan tempts people to bring out the worst in them. God tests us to only bring out the best in us. Just as going through the fire refines and beautifies, God too wants His children to come to know Him more and more. We are to walk an intimate relationship with Him. One of obedience. From that faith blossoms and love grows. How we are forever awed by our God and all He does for us. His mercies are new every day. His grace builds a bridge and closes in the gap. 

Can we profit from God's trials? You betcha we can. God never sends us on a journey without first going there Himself and He forever provides us with all we need no matter how long the road ahead of us. He will never leave or forsake His children. {Deut. 31:6}

"My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

Let us remember that the trials that God allows to strengthen the believer are different from the consequences of sin in a believer's life. Ever look at one's circumstances and wonder, "Boy, what did they do for that to happen to them?" May we be very cautious in judging the circumstances of others. God is always working to bring His children closer to Him and to perfect their journey to completeness. 

Trials are a part of what God is doing to prepare His people. Have you ever gone through something to only walk a different journey facing a totally different trail later, but now you have learned something to help you in this journey that you would have in no way learned if God had not allowed you to travel the trials that tested your faith? We have an amazing God who knows our journey. He knows where we came from and where we are going. There isn't anything He doesn't know about His children. We should take comfort in that. Trusting Him all the more. 

Those who remain faithful will receive the crown of life. How can we not be excited about that? We can endure because our Savior endured. We can overcome because He first overcame. We gain our strength and wisdom from Him. Seeking Him and walking in a relationship with Him brings us to only appreciate life all the more. 

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12

"In this you greatly rejoice, through now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, through it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Through now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9

We often ask, "Why did this happen to me?" How much more should we ask, "Why not me?" Is it okay if it happens to another person? Does that make it easier for us? It's often harder to watch others go through such difficult trial. I am learning that no trial comes that God has not in some way prepared me for. I am learning to ask, "Okay, God, where to now? What is it that you wish for me to learn here? What am I to do?" Now, I said, learning. That doesn't mean those words come easily for me. I cannot imagine going though trial and not having Jesus walk the journey with me. 

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

I do not know the trial you are facing today, but our Lord knows. Friend, turn to Him today in the midst of your heartache. Seek Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Just as Abraham walked in faith through his trials we too can walk this journey ahead of us without fear, but with a growing faith in the One who is leading the way. 

"But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand." Isaiah 64:8

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sweet Mercy

Abraham and Sarah living a life of faith in an area of depravity. Sodom is filled with evil. Sin prevails throughout this land, but Abraham and Sarah are living the example of faith in a place where hope seems sparse. But here is Abraham seeking mercy on the righteous of this land. There must be righteous men here. Oh, the hope of Abraham for his fellow man. He's willing to intercede for them. He's willing to stand before the Lord and ask for mercy for a people who chose to seek self desire instead of the God of hope. 

In Genesis 18 I find God's mercy throughout this chapter. Here we see the intercession of one man asking for mercy for the hearts of man. Man that is so undeserving. Abraham is speaking to the Lord on behalf of the people of Sodom. Abraham's heart is mighty here. Where is our heart for this lost world? How often do we go to the Lord on behalf of another asking for mercy upon them? 

To start this chapter we see something remarkable. Abraham and Sarah are called on by the Lord and two angels. I am still trying to wrap my mind around our Lord visiting Abraham, but then my ways and understanding are not God's. His ways are higher and that only makes me walk in faith all the more. Try to envision this meeting with me. Our Lord is extraordinary! 

It reminds me of scripture telling us to be hospitable to all for we never know if we shall entertain angels. {Hebrews 13:2} A reminder that we must live always as if it is possible. For what we do unto others we in turn do to our Savior. A little love goes a long way. From a little love comes much love. Love has the power to grow. 

Abraham and the Lord are talking about Sodom. The Lord is looking toward Sodom and Abraham stands before the Lord. He comes near the Lord and says, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" {Genesis 18:23-25} Look at the boldness of Abraham. In his boldness he isn't disrespectful to the Lord, but being honest and pure in heart. "So the Lord said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." {Genesis 18:26} Grace. Sweet grace. 

But their conversation goes deeper. But isn't that grace? It's deep and wide. This is what I love about this chapter. Our Lord is listening to Abraham. He is hearing his heart. Abraham is interceding for others. He has a great hope that righteous shall be found by the Lord. Abraham much like us finds it hard to believe that there cannot be any righteous found among the evil surrounding them. Can people truly be so evil? That's a question we have all asked.  Abraham is standing in the gap. This is what our Lord would later do for us. 

In their conversation they go from a hope of fifty, to forty-five, to forty, to thirty, to twenty, and then to ten. "Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten." So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place." {Genesis 18:32-33} 

Abraham knows the city. He knows of the sin. But yet his heart is pouring out before his Lord. He's wanting the Lord to save the righteous among the evil. Our Lord too knows, but He is willing to listen to the heart of Abraham plead on behalf for others. Abraham knew God cared about the righteous there. See, Lot and his family should have died there among the others, but by the mercy of God, He saved them. Not even ten righteous people could be found there in Sodom. God showed mighty grace. God wants to see all men saved. He doesn't want any to perish. This land was out of control and the evil was growing. 

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to e saved and to come tot he knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Oh, the power of one man's prayer. Just think if we all came together and prayed for others with the deep passion that Abraham walked. He didn't just talk the talk. He walked the walk. We see his great faith and it is a mighty example to us in our walk today. 

For us to intercede on behalf of others is a powerful testimony of our love of Jesus. The cross isn't just for a few, but for all. We are all sinners in need of grace.

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16

We complain a lot, don't we? We hate seeing evil around us, but what are we really doing to stop it? We watch the news and see what's happening around us. We shake our head in disgust. Wish we lived somewhere else. Abraham could have said, "Lord, do what you want. Destroy the whole lot of them." If we are not careful we can grow that non-caring attitude. If it doesn't land on our doorstep then it's not our concern. Friends, our fellow man is our concern. Our hearts should be broken for the lost. 

What if we prayed for our country? For our leaders? For those campaigning for president? Just what if we interceded on their behalf? We worship the God of hope. Shouldn't we be living as with the same hope that Abraham chose? We don't have to pretend we are not living in end times. More than ever we should be praying for the hearts of man to come to know the Jesus we know. We are sojourners in a land that is not our home. 

We don't see Abraham complaining about his fellow man living in this land. He is walking with hope and a desire for God to reach the heart of man. We don't just see Abraham's faith. We see his works as he desired for his fellow man to be saved from the wretched destruction of the evil that prevailed. We see his heart as he goes before the Lord. Abraham was a man of great faith that followed God in obedience which is the action of faith. Let us look to him as our example and follow in his steps and intercede for others to be saved from this world and accept their inheritance in heaven. Our gift of eternal life from the One who interceded for us all. 

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:8-10

May we who are in such need of mercy have mercy upon others. We are all undeserving of His mercy, but oh, how His mercies are new each day. Let us take a stand against evil, but let us never stop praying for the heart of man to come to know the King of kings. Let our lives be a lighthouse for the One who showed mercy upon us that we may be an example of great faith and love just as Abraham.

"It is mercy, not justice or courage or even heroism, that alone can defeat evil." Tolkien

"Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn't mercy." Timothy Keller

"I used to think that mercy meant sharing kindness to someone who didn't deserve it, as if only the recipient defined the act. The girl between has learned that mercy is defined by its giver. Our flaws are obvious, yet we are loved ad able to love, if we choose, because there is that bit of the divine still smoldering in us." from The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sweet Intercession

Just think about the blessings that would flow if we interceded for one another? Oh, the sweet prayers of others on our behalf. That's what Christ's love is. Standing in the gap for another. 

Imagine the sound within heaven's gates where continual prayers are being spoken and heard for others? Brothers and sisters in Christ and those we know who have yet to come to receive Jesus as their Savior? 

Those midnight wakings of having someone you haven't thought about for quite a while come to mind. Pray.

Sitting in traffic and looking over at the driver as they wipe tears from their eyes. Pray.

Those we pass in the super market with hurried steps and aggravation upon their faces. Pray.

The friends we know going through such tragedy and trial. Pray.

Those co-workers who we know going through tough times. Pray.

Children on their way to school. Pray.

The accident we pass by as we go about our day. Pray.

The new opportunities for a friend. Pray.

The test results awaiting for another. Pray.

Job loss, sickness, death. Pray.

The owners of the home burned to the ground. Pray.

While watching the news and seeing tragedy all around us. Pray.

Presidential campaigns. Pray. 

The safety of our children. Pray.

Our husband/wife on their way to work. Pray.

The child without a home. Pray.

There is always someone to intercede for in prayer. There is always a reason for prayer. This is why we are told to pray without ceasing. God is always listening. He is waiting for us to listen to the Spirit. Prayer spoken remains alive. 

The Lord hears our prayers and He moves on our behalf when we humbly go to Him with faith, trust and obedience. Mountains do not move without prayer!! Oh, the sweet legacy of our spoken prayers for one another can not only change our lives, but for generations to come!

We may never even meet those we have lifted in prayer, but what a joy to think that one day we may meet in heaven. To ponder the prayers that have been spoken by mothers and fathers on their children's behalf. The prayers lifted heavenward for those who are journeying through trial will leave a trail of grace and mercy for their road ahead. We can forge a gap between heartache and healing just by interceding for another.

There are twenty-four hours in a day and if we are continually in prayer for others, just think, there isn't any room for anger and bitterness to creep in our hearts. If we are continually giving the Spirit room to move though us on behalf of another mountains will be moved, hearts will be changed, lives will be blessed. Amazing how when we are lifting others up our troubles don't seem so heavy. In fact, we begin to see with a whole new perspective. We begin to count our blessings. 

Intercede for another today. Open your heart to the Spirit. When we pray for others we are opening a door for God to move through in ways we thought were impossible. But, all He needs are willing vessels and obedient souls, for the possible to blossom into a hope lived in us all. 

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:13-16

"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mid of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:17-19

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Faith by Lyn Cote

This is the third and final book in the Quaker Brides series. This book follows, Honor and Blessing. At the time of my reviewing this novel I wasn't aware it was a part of a series, so one could very well read this as a stand alone and walk away blessed just as I have done. 

The year is 1858. The Civil War is beckoning all on either side to war. The Western Theater is where Lyn takes us on a journey into the land of slavery, battles, and the ugliness of gunfire. No family is safe from this war. All hearts are forever changed. There is one who is ready to take a stance and that is Faith. She is strong and compassionate. A woman for all to admire. A character portrayed with great detail and passion.

Lyn Cote writes with such depth and inspiration. This is a story that will go deep and reach into your gut as Lyn allows us to glimpse into the lives of those who are living this war in every aspect. If you love historical fiction you will be absorbed into another time and place as you read these penned words that take us to the front lines of the battlefield. 

This is my first book to read penned by Lyn Cote. She is a writer to admire. I now hope to go back and read the first two novels in this series. This would be a great read for any age, especially young girls with a love of reading. Those who love nursing and the Civil War will enjoy this novel. It flows easily and the characters are portrayed brilliantly. One can only imagine what life is like for the characters as well as the book is penned. One can see that this is a novel that took great research to give the reader such valued detail. 

This would be a great addition to any library. This is one I will reflect on for some time to come. These pages are filled with such heart and emotion. Thank you, Lyn for gifting us with such a great and unforgettable read. 

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you.

Lyn Cote is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of more than thirty-five novels. Her books have been RITA Award finalists and Holt Medallion and Carol Award winners. Lyn and her husband have two grown children and live on a small, beautiful lake in northern Wisconsin. Visit her online at  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Room For Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Buffalo Creek Kansas 1936 is where this story begins. The cover is what caught my attention and then after reading the back cover I knew this was going to be an unforgettable story, but then again knowing Kim Vogel Sawyer penned these black and white words lets the reader know they are in for something spectacular.

Some stories take a few chapters to hook the reader. Not Kim's novels. I was completely enthralled in this novel within the first chapter. I love historical fiction during this time period, but also a story of strength, survival, and faith. All this and more is found within these pages. An unputdownable for sure! This just may be my favorite novel yet penned by this gifted writer. 

Can you imagine being married to a man you think you know through and through and then the day comes when you realize you never knew him at all? This story is about trust, deception, and grace. Oh, the sweet grace this main character shows. If I could be half the woman that Neva Shilling is I will be the woman God has created me to be. She is certainly a Proverbs 31 woman. Oh, don't get me wrong. She is real. We see her go through every emotion, but what I love is that through her faith she overcomes her anger. She allows God to continue doing a work in her heart. 

One day she's waiting on the return of her husband. Both children excited to see their father and then in a moment everything she knew as normal changed. Kind of like our lives, right? Now her home is filled with more mouths to feed and more hearts to love. 

I love the journey Kim takes us on to witness the depths of Neva's heart. These characters gripped by heart and tugged at my emotions. She had the choice to remain bitter, but instead she allowed the grace of God to make her better. This is one of those beautifully written stories that will take you on a journey of finding yourself within these pages and closing the last page feeling blessed to have held this book in your hands. 

This novel was a gift from Waterbrook Press for sharing my review with you.

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the highly acclaimed, best-selling author of gentle stories of hope, such as What Once Was Lost and Through The Deep Waters. With more than one million books in print, Kim has garnered numerous awards, including the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. She lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband, Don.


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